It’s been a extremely, actually very long time since each the Chargers and Raiders had been contending for the highest of the AFC. Ah, the halcyon days the place San Diego and Oakland had groups — it looks like solely yesterday.
All jokes apart, whoever wins Monday Night time Soccer shall be on high of the division. It’s early, I do know, however any time we get to have a good time a damn-near 20 yr occurring within the NFL, we’re going to take it.
After Week 4 in 2002 each the Raiders and Chargers had been undefeated. Oakland was coming off back-to-back wins scoring 50 factors in every contest. Wealthy Gannon and the astonishing Raiders offense regarded unbeatable following a weird offseason that noticed the group traded head coach Jon Gruden to Tampa Bay for a bunch of first spherical picks and compensation. On the time, Oakland regarded like the neatest group within the NFL, driving with a potent West Coast offense and having a great deal of belongings for the longer term. It nearly felt like one thing large was brewing.
After all, we all know how the story ended for the Raiders. They went all the best way to the Super Bowl the place they’d meet, and lose to Gruden. From there each groups would slowly decline to middling success. Now Jon Gruden is the coach of the Raiders once more, and the Buccaneers have gained one other Tremendous Bowl — as a result of the world of soccer is a bizarre place.
Talking of bizarre, let’s speak concerning the San Diego Chargers circa 2002. Keep in mind, this was earlier than the mammoth quarterback shift that got here a yr later across the league. No one knew if Tom Brady was going to be a long-term reply, and the Chargers had one of many best quarterbacks of all time — however didn’t even understand it.
Getting into his second season within the NFL, there nonetheless wasn’t a ton of hope round Drew Brees. The 2002 Chargers largely gained despite Brees, not due to him. Coached by Marty Schottenheimer, San Diego was predominantly a defensive group with top-of-the-line operating backs within the NFL: LaDainian Tomlinson. Chosen within the first spherical of the 2001 NFL Draft, Tomlinson had established himself as the most effective younger again within the league, posting back-to-back 1,000 yard dashing seasons and actually exhibiting himself to be an all-purpose participant, catching over 50 passes a yr.
So, as we entered Week 7 of the 2002 season with the Raiders at 4-1 and the Chargers at 5-1, everybody knew it was going to be a deal with. Watch the entire game here.
A sluggish first quarter led to San Diego putting first with Reche Caldwell catching a brief move from Brees, earlier than extending its lead with Tomlinson. The Raiders didn’t waste time answering again, with Jerry Rice catching a landing to push the result in a single rating. Slugging back-and-forth till the ultimate whistle, additional time was wanted to lastly resolve a winner — with Tomlinson scoring on a 19-yard run to win the sport, 27-21.
When the mud settled the Chargers appear destined to take over the division, and the sport was actually a battle of two unimaginable stat traces:
- Wealthy Gannon: 35-of-45, 363 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception
- LaDainian Tomlinson: 39 carries, 153 yards, 1 TD, 5 receptions, 28 yards, 1 TD
It was devastating for San Diego from this second on. The Chargers went into the bye week on high of the world, then proceeded to lose seven of their final 9 video games and miss the playoffs.
Oakland would go on to make the Tremendous Bowl, as we all know.
The Chargers by no means put themselves again collectively. A yr later Brees struggled, the group was the worst within the NFL — then chosen Eli Manning who refused to play for them, in order that they ended up having to commerce him to New York for Philip Rivers.
Brees instantly had a hearth lit beneath him when the rookie arrived, and began taking part in the most effective soccer of his younger profession, prompting the Saints, to commerce for the 26-year-old within the hopes he could lead on them. We all know how that one went.
So whereas Monday Night time Soccer might sound pretty insignificant, that assembly between the Raiders and Chargers combating for who’d management the 2002 AFC West had ramifications that might ship shockwaves by the league for years to come back. The stakes in 2021 are decidedly much less, nevertheless it’s nonetheless enjoyable to recollect the final time there was a lot on the road for these groups.